Scotland's National Marine Plan

This Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore

waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). It also applies to the exercise of both reserved and

devolved functions.

16. Aggregates

Objectives and policies for this sector should be read subject to those set out in Chapters 3 and 4 of this Plan. It is recognised that not all of the objectives can necessarily be achieved directly through the marine planning system, but they are considered important context for planning and decision making.


1 Social Growth of the marine aggregates industry in Scotland, ensuring supply is available to meet demand should it arise while taking account of environmental impacts.

Key references

Mineral Resources of Scottish Waters and the Central North Sea

National Marine Plan interactive ( NMPi). Productive / Aggregates section

Part 1: Background and context

16.1 Marine aggregate extraction removes sand and gravel from the seabed for use as construction aggregate or for land reclamation or beach replenishment. Although Scotland has considerable marine sand and gravel resource, historically the marine aggregate industry has been very small due to more readily accessible land supplies.

16.2 Most recently, marine aggregate licences have been issued for two sites in Scottish waters: the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay. Over 30 years ago aggregate was also taken from the Clyde. Local marine aggregate has been used for coastal defence at Montrose and for reclamation in the Moray Firth. There are no current licences for marine aggregate extraction. However, there is potential for further activity if extraction becomes viable under different economic conditions or if increased dredging capability (in terms of ability to dredge in deeper water depths) offers opportunity for extraction in new areas. There may also be increased demand for aggregate in Scotland for use in gravity bases for the emerging renewables industry and in coastal defence and adaptation schemes.

16.3 An assessment undertaken by the British Geological Survey on behalf of the Crown Estate [150] has identified marine sand and gravel deposits in Scotland. Potential mineral resource has also been inferred from geological data but has not yet been evaluated. Both resource maps can be accessed via NMPi.

16.4 Land-based extraction provides the majority of aggregates in Scotland. In some cases, marine transportation is essential to its distribution and viability (see Shipping, Ports and Harbour chapter).

Part 2: Key issues for marine planning


16.5 Economic benefits of the aggregates industry include skilled, stable employment and the generation of income through the construction industry supply chain. While marine aggregate activity generates no current measurable economic value in Scotland, the potential generation of employment from this sector in the future could increase economic contribution.

16.6 However, Glensanda Quarry on the Morvern peninsula contributes significantly to the Scottish economy, with a business turnover of approximately £40 million. With access only via sea, it relies entirely on the marine environment for transportation of aggregate, supplies and personnel.

Interactions with other sectors

16.7 A positive relationship would exist between this sector and transport and ports. Vessels require wharf facilities to land product and ports will benefit economically from this. Potential interactions with shipping and ferry services include short-term displacement during aggregate extraction. Impacts on lifeline ferry services and shipping would need careful consideration, as would dredging or dumping in the vicinity of activities which require high water quality.


16.8 Some environmental impacts can arise from aggregate activity. These include:

  • Changes to hydrodynamics that may alter coastal processes.
  • Damage or destruction of important sites of geodiversity interest.
  • Loss of seabed habitat, and heritage assets.
  • Impacts on species and fisheries and secondary impacts to marine life and habitat associated with sediment plumes.
  • Disturbance of fish spawning, migration routes, nursery and overwintering areas.

16.9 Aggregate extraction is subject to licensing procedures which considers environmental impact.


16.10 Aggregate extraction could potentially affect coastal processes and thus alter local rates of coastal change. Potential changes in storminess as a result of climate change could impact on the window of suitability for aggregate extraction. Climate change may also potentially lead to increased need for aggregates for beach replenishment.

Part 3: Marine planning policies

Economic SocialAGGREGATES 1: Marine planners and decision makers should consider the impacts of other development or activity on areas of marine aggregate or mineral resource. Where an interaction is identified, consideration should be given to whether there are permissions for aggregate or mineral extraction and whether they require any degree of safeguarding.

Economic Marine EcosystemAGGREGATES 2: Decision makers should ensure all the necessary environmental issues are considered and safeguards are in place when determining whether any proposed marine aggregate dredging is considered to be environmentally acceptable and is in accordance with the other policies and objectives of this Plan.

Regional policy: Regional marine plans should consider if areas of aggregate or mineral resource require any degree of safeguarding.

Part 4: The future

16.11 Potential commercially viable deposits of marine sand and gravel [151] are present in Scottish waters. Work commissioned by the Crown Estate provides sand, gravel and mineral resource maps for Scotland which are designed to help visualise how aggregates and minerals are distributed off the coast. However, mineral resources remain inferred from geology and have not yet been evaluated. While there is little short-term demand for these resources, medium- to long-term future market demands and technological advances will influence their viability and strategic importance.


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